Book Reviews

The Help by Kathryn Stockett: Stockett's debut novel is phenomenal. Set in Jackson, Mississippi on the cusp of the civil rights movement, this novel tells the story of three very different women (1 white, 2 black) and the lengths they go to stand up for what they believe in. My favorite aspect was the way Stockett so vividly captures life in a small southern town. Her characterization is superb, giving strong insights into women and our behavior. Her language reminded me of Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God (also fantastic.) The novel is serious in nature, but Stockett infuses it with such rich observation and sly humor that I found myself laughing out loud at parts. Best of all, Stockett illustrates our underlying commonality and humanity and shows that, despite our differences and mistakes, our future is hopeful. A-

Beloved by Toni Morrison: My Grandpa once told me to give every novel 50 pages. After 50 pages if you still can't stand it, put it down and find another book. Since this novel won the Pulitzer, I gave it 150. Then I put it down and found another book. (I willingly and happily attest to the incredible calibre of Morrison's writing, and would recommend it to anyone trying to understand the mentality of "emancipated" ex-slaves. For me, the darkness of the novel bled from the pages into my mind and I was having difficulty shaking off the depression I felt. Maybe I'll finish it later in Summer when it's not perpetually gray outside, making me already predispositioned to be sad.)

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown: This novel was pretty much exactly how I thought it would be. Charming, wealthy, brilliant guy and charming, wealthy, brilliant girl team up to outsmart the bad guy. They have a series of interactions where no one important dies, until the grand finale where good conquers evil. The end. On the bright side, the history is tremendous. This is why Brown has such a great following, and why I think Brown should be a historian, not a writer. The negatives: His plot is obvious since it never changes in any of his novels, his characterization is cliche at best, his theme is widely used and much more eloquently given in other novels. It's entertaining enough though, I suppose. I'm just not a fan of Brown's formulaic style. C-

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: Most people I've talked to either hated this book, or liked this book. No one loved it though. I can see why. The story is intriguing and the characters are compelling, but the novel was too uncomfortable to love. This discomfort has two parts. The first is her focus on menstruation. I know a lot of a woman's worth in those days was based on her fertility, but seriously? Did she really need to focus 200 freaking pages on menstrual cycles?? Why did she name the novel after the area where women went to bleed? Does she really think there are no other means besides menses that define women, even in that patriarchal age? It was way over the top and kind of grossed me out. The second part that I had a problem with was Diamant's portrayal of certain historical figures, namely Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. I believe in prophets, both in ancient times and today, and while I know these men are just people with faults and weaknesses like the rest of us, I do not believe God would have called them to be prophets unless they were worthy. Not perfect, but worthy. So I had a problem with Diamant's inclusion of such things as masturbation. To be fair, Diamant skillfully infused her characters' thoughts and actions with the familiar biblical tale. Plus, Diamant did an excellent job of aging the language of the novel with her characters, until we ultimately hear the words of a wise old women who has finally found peace. I have to give kudos to Diamant's imagination. It was well written and makes you wonder about the lives of the women who walked along side these ancient prophets. So there were definitely redeeming features. Not my favorite though. B-

Half the Sky: Turning Oppresion into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: Every woman (and man, for that matter) should read this book. I started writing a review, but then it became too long and I realized the issues discussed in this novel deserve their own post. Stay tuned. A

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: All I have to say is, do NOT under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES even ATTEMPT to do the following: Pick this book up about a half hour before bedtime on a Sunday night. You will be up far too late and then be a complete zombie at work the next day, useless since what brain power you have left is entirely devoted to returning to this book until you can finish it. This novel is supremely enticing and wildly suspenseful. The main character, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, is strong, spirited, and determined. The premise is dramatic with it's cold government, starving citizens, and a deadly game wherein the "tributes" fight to the death. It's a sort of post-modern Survivor meets Communism meets the Apocalypse. This book, while fitting in the YA category, asks challenging questions about the nature of entertainment, exploitment, and humanity, and the cost of love. Addictive and satisfying, I highly recommend it. (Just don't expect closure.) A

Next on my list:
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Clearly I'm on a Suzanne Collins binge.)
Any other suggestions?


This post has no title. Or coherency.

So we finally decided to spend our Christmas money and got an ipod touch. It's been our favorite toy these last couple of weeks. Our favorite apps include Risk, Mobsters, Scrabble, and Pandora. I'm not sure we've done much else with our lives lately. It's been great.

We do have one bit of news: Mike got a job! He'll be a law/econ professor's research assistant over the summer here at Notre Dame. We feel pretty lucky since jobs of any sort are hard to come by these days. It will be fun to both be working on campus all summer. Good job Hot Buns.
And my lunch hour is now over.


I'm Melissa Wilde and I Approve of These Products.

I don't actually have much to blog about. I just wanted to write a new post so that I didn't have to see Vienna's face every time I looked at the bloggity blog. (In an ironic twist of events, that post garnered more comments than any other post I've ever done... Closet Bachelor (un)fans unite!)

ANYWAY. I guess this post has to be about something... So here are some products that I endorse:

1) MILK. Milk ranks up there with Michelangelo's David, Shakespeare's Hamlet, the Bible, and Mike's kisses in my book of perfect things. Milk is happiness. I love milk. Cold, tall glass, fat free please. In college I would keep 2 gallons in my fridge, and 1 at my sister's house a few blocks away. It's the perfect drink. Not only does it go with everything, but I'm convinced that it makes whatever you're eating taste better. For real. Try it. I love milk. 2) Dove. I am a big fan of Dove products. This affinity is twofold. First, I like Dove for practical reasons. They have high quality products without being costly. Their products always smell good- Always a good thing. Second, I am a huge fan of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. It's about time a company took a stand and stopped promoting unrealistic and unhealthy body images as the ideal to women. I am impressed and encouraged with Dove's desire to promote self-esteem, self-respect, and confidence instead of bleached hair and size 0 waistlines. Dove has earned my allegiance with this campaign, and I happily support them.
3. Spicy Cilantro Hummus. This is a new addition to my life and I love it. Sooooo good. Seriously. My favorite dipping tools are pita bread and whole wheat crackers, but you could just as easily use tortilla chips. I'm still in the honeymoon phase with this one, but I suspect it will become a regular item in our home, like the above two products. Check it out. Your life will never be the same.

And that's it.



(What? Don't judge me.)